It should not be any surprise that as consumers we believe each other. We are all in the game of consumerism together and trust opinions from people we believe to be just like ourselves. When you think about it, recommendations are likely what commerce was built right from the very start, so this is really nothing new.
However, what has happened on our watch is that the digital space has given rise of the voice of the individual and the ability for everyone to provide "word-of-mouse" testimonials. We have seen a rapid acceleration in terms of the abundance and availability of this kind of material more so than at any other time in history. As Chris Anderson cites in his book The Long Tail - The New Economics of Culture and Commerce, "the trend watchers at Frog Design, a consultancy, see this as nothing less than an epochal shift":
We are leaving the Information Age and entering the Recommendation age. Today information is ridiculously easy to get; you practically trip over it on the street. Information gathering is no longer the issue - making smart decisions based on the information is now the trick... Recommendations serve as shortcuts through the thicket of information, just as my wine shop owner shortcuts me to obscure French wines to enjoy with pasta."
It makes perfect sense. And, so does the chart below showing that when it comes to CPG consumer product reviews posted on the Internet "virtually all shoppers now find them credible". They are an extremely influential part of the purchase decision - either positively or negatively.
Our opinions, tastes and degrees of satisfaction/dissatisfaction with anything and everything have now become navigation points that rise above any tag line or benefit statement we can muster up. The question marketers need to ask is how they are enabling the recommendation-factor for their brands and generating a collection of positive consumer generated content.
I believe there is no big secret on how to achieve this. It is as simple as creating something, be it a product or experience, that people will want to talk about, recommend and share with others. It all seems to fall into place from there.